On-ice chemistry fuels Gophers top line

Last year Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi scored 57 goals combined.

Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt handles the puck against Ohio State University at Ridder Arena on Jan. 31.

Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt handles the puck against Ohio State University at Ridder Arena on Jan. 31.

by Emily Polglaze

Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi have a way of finding each other on the ice. 
The pair of first-line forwards were also the two top point-scorers on the Gophers last year. 
“I think it’s come pretty naturally for us,” said Brandt, a senior captain this season. “Last year was the first year we really played together, and I thought right from the start we pretty much clicked as well as we could.”
Though the duo didn’t play side by side with the Gophers until before last season, they’ve been familiar with each other’s play for a while. 
Cameranesi said she and Brandt played on a summer team together when they were younger and saw each other at the same hockey camps for years. 
Both ended up at the University of Minnesota, winning a national championship last year, and they’ve developed a successful dynamic. 
Both are big offensive contributors, scoring a combined 57 goals last season, but there are elements of their games that differ. 
“The one thing I’ve learned the most from her is her vision on the ice,” Cameranesi, now a junior, said. “It’s incredible. She could have her back to the play and know where every single person on the ice is. She’s five steps ahead of the game.” 
As a unit, Brandt and Cameranesi have learned to play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to produce solid plays and points for the Gophers. 
Though Brandt edged out Cameranesi by 11 goals last season, Cameranesi led the team in assists with 42, which has a lot to do with her speed. 
“She’s the faster one, so she’s going to be the one sprinting down the ice, and I’m going to try and get her the puck as much as possible,” Brandt said. “We try to hit each other when we’re open and bury the puck when we get chances.”
Brandt and Cameranesi got more experience strengthening their on-ice chemistry this summer when they played for Team USA in an annual Under-22 series against Team
Canada in August. 
Brandt had three goals in the series, two of which were assisted by Cameranesi. Team USA won the contest two games to one. 
This year, the pair has a little bit of adjustment to do, as their linemate from last year, senior Maryanne Menefee, has been out with an injury so far this season. 
In the meantime, freshman Sarah Potomak is likely to fill Menefee’s place, and playing with a pair like Brandt and Cameranesi may take some getting used to for the rookie. 
Head coach Brad Frost isn’t too worried, however, and was impressed with his first line’s performance in their debut games at Penn State University.
“For [Potomak], it’s both easy and hard at the same time because [Cameranesi and Brandt] have such great chemistry,” Frost said. “Game one was a little bit of a struggle for them, trying to figure each other out. And then game two I thought Sarah gelled extremely well with those two.” 
Potomak also faced off against Brandt and Cameranesi in the Under-22 series, playing with Team Canada.
The pair will inevitably split up in the season’s end, as Brandt will graduate, but they’ve built a relationship that is sure to last beyond hockey. 
“She’s one of my best friends,” Cameranesi said. “We live together; we’re together a lot, and I think that helps on-ice situations as well.”